Industry-Friendly State Disclosure Rules May Shield Far Broader Use. “Previously unpublicized information unearthed by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) shows that since at least 2013, oil and gas companies have used more than 21 tons (43,000 pounds) of a class of extremely toxic and persistent chemicals known as PFAS in hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells in Texas, according to a report released today by PSR. Alarmingly, the full extent of fracking chemicals used is unknown. During the same period, frackers used another 3 million tons of potentially toxic chemicals that remain unidentified because state rules allow the industry to hide them from the public, the analysis found.
PSR’s report, Fracking with “Forever Chemicals” in Texas, recommends that Texans protect their health and environment by halting PFAS use in oil and gas extraction operations and immediately expanding public disclosure. Colorado took these steps in legislation passed in 2022.
PFAS are a highly dangerous class of chemicals, known for their toxicity at microscopic levels, their multiple negative health effects, including cancer, and their resistance to breaking down in the environment, leading to their nickname, “forever chemicals.” The forever chemicals that PSR was able to identify as used in Texas’s oil and gas wells are known as PTFE/Teflon and fluoroalkyl alcohol substituted polyethylene glycol. But gaps in Texas’s industry-friendly disclosure rules prevent the public from knowing how widely PFAS or other toxic chemicals have been used in fracking or other methods or stages of oil and gas drilling and extraction. PSR found that:
- Between 2013 and 2022, oil and gas companies injected more than 58,000 oil and gas wells in 183 of Texas’s 253 counties with at least one fracking chemical whose identity the companies withheld from the public through “trade secret” designations.
- The combined weight of these chemicals totaled more than six billion pounds.
- Oil and gas companies are not required to disclose any of the chemicals they inject into oil and gas wells during the drilling that precedes fracking or during other “downhole” operations aside from fracking.
- By shielding this chemical information from the public, it creates the potential that Texans may be unknowingly exposed through well water or other pathways to PFAS and other toxic chemicals from hundreds or even thousands of oil and gas production wells.”